Ways to Remove Rust from Outdoor Furniture

9 Easy Ways to Remove Rust from Outdoor Furniture

In Outdoor Furniture, Tips by Jamie

Outdoor furniture, especially metal furniture, is prone to rust. When it is exposed to wet weather or humidity, rust will quickly form. If you don’t do something about it, your furniture will be next to useless in a year or two. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to remove it. This article will take you through some of the best products and home remedies for taking care of rust on outdoor furniture.

What Causes Outdoor Furniture to Rust?

Rust is caused by a reaction called oxidation, which takes place when oxygen and moisture are present. The metal combines with oxygen to create an oxide, which we know as rust, that coats the surface.

Usually, new furniture will be painted or otherwise protected, so it won’t rust right away. But after prolonged exposure to the rain and sun, paint can flake off and protective coatings can degrade. This allows moisture and oxygen to come into direct contact with the metal, causing it to rust.

What Types of Outdoor Furniture Are Most Likely to Rust?

Metal furniture is the most likely to rust, and almost all metals will rust. Even silver and gold can eventually rust, even though it takes a long time. However, iron rusts faster than other types of metal, and any metal compound that contains iron is also prone to rusting.

You may also experience issues with rust on wooden furniture if it is fixed together using screws that are prone to rusting.

What Types of Outdoor Furniture Will Never Rust?

If you are concerned about rust, plastic furniture is your best bet. It can’t rust at all and it is not usually fixed together with screws. Wooden furniture also won’t rust, apart from the screws. But if it is fixed with stainless steel screws, which are incredibly resistant to corrosion, you shouldn’t have a problem with rust.

Unfortunately, if you have metal outdoor furniture, you will have to deal with rust at some point.

How to Remove Rust from Outdoor Furniture?

Go into details on how to clean and remove rust from patio furniture…

1. Dissolve Rust with WD-40 WD-40 110071 Multi-Use Product Spray with Smart Straw, 11 oz. (Pack of 1)

WD-40 is great for removing rust and you’ve probably got some in the house already. It acts as a lubricant, loosening the rust from the metal surface so it can easily be cleaned away. To remove rust with WD-40, simply spray a good amount over the affected area and then leave it for 10-15 minutes to work its magic.

After this time, the rust should be loose and easy to scrub off with some wire wool or something else abrasive. You shouldn’t need too much force, so scrub it gently to avoid causing any damage to the furniture.

This method will work on light to medium rust patches on metal furniture. The WD-40 is also a moisture repellant, so it will give you some protection against rust in the future. However, this will be fairly short lived, so you should consider alternative ways to prevent rust too.

2. Lemon Juice and Salt

isolated lemon cut in half

Lemon juice is a great natural cleaner that is able to dissolve rust. Mixing it with salt gives you an abrasive texture that will help strip the rust off the surface.

Start by sprinkling some coarse salt over the rusted area. Don’t be afraid to apply liberally as it won’t do any damage to the furniture. Next, get some lemon juice (you can use fresh or bottled) and put it over the salt. Let it sit for a few minutes but not too long because the acid in the lemon can damage the finish on the furniture.

Once you have let it dissolve the rust for a few minutes, simply wipe it off. The abrasive salt should take the rust off easily.

If the rust is particularly tough and there is still some left after you finish, simply repeat the process again until the furniture is rust-free.

3. Rejuvenate Pre-Saturated Restorer Wipes Rejuvenate Pre-Saturated Restorer Wipes Penetrating Formula Restores Shines and Protects Faded, Oxidized, Sun-Damaged Outdoor Surfaces

If you have a lot of surface rust that isn’t that thick, try some Rejuvenate Pre-Saturated Restorer Wipes for a quick fix. These microfiber cloths come already soaked in a specially formulated cleaner that can bring metal or plastic surfaces back to life.

It will easily strip off rust and stains from your furniture, giving it a nice shine and making it look brand new. It only takes seconds to wipe the furniture down and you’re done.

These wipes aren’t magic and they won’t deal with years of built up rust. However, if you start to notice a few rust spots forming, a quick once over with some Rejuvenate wipes will stop the problem before it starts, so it’s always good to have some handy.

4. Sand or Scrape Away the Rust

100PCS 5 Inch 8 Hole Hook and Loop Sanding Discs Sandpaper, 60 80 120 180 240 320 400 Grits Sand Paper for Random Orbital Sander

You don’t necessarily need to use a cleaning solution to remove rust, you can just sand or scrape it off. Using a low grit sandpaper and gently rubbing the surface will strip away small rust spots. If it is a bit thicker, you could even use a wire brush to scrape it away. Rust forms a surface layer on metal, so it can be removed in this way fairly effectively.

However, once the rust reaches a certain point, sanding and scraping isn’t a good idea because you will just end up taking big chunks out and doing more damage to the furniture.

If you do decide to sand or scrape the rust off, you will most likely damage the finish on surrounding areas. So, you will need to paint or finish it afterward.

5. Iron OUT Spray Gel Rust Stain Remover Iron OUT Spray Gel Rust Stain Remover, Remove and Prevent Rust Stains in Bathrooms, Kitchens, Appliances, Laundry, and Outdoors, white

Iron OUT Spray Gel Rust Stain Remover is an excellent all-purpose rust cleaner that can be used on your outdoor furniture. It is a thick gel spray that sticks to rust and dissolves it easily, so you don’t need to scrub it away.

This means that you’re not damaging the furniture by sanding it or scrubbing it with a tough wire brush, you simply wipe away the rust when it is done. The powerful formula will take away thicker areas of rust too.

The great thing about using a spray is that you can get into all of the small joints and tricky areas that are difficult to reach otherwise. Just keep in mind that it can corrode metals if you apply too much. You don’t need a lot to dissolve thick rust, so start with a small amount first to see how it performs.

6. Magica Rust Remover Magica Rust Remover - 8 Oz Gel Bottle

Magica Rust Remover is a similar gel rust remover, but this one comes in a bottle that you pour into the rust instead of a spray. Again, the results are excellent and you don’t need to scrub at all, the rust will dissolve in just a few minutes and turn to harmless salts. You can then wipe it off with a cloth and your furniture is as good as new.

So, what is the benefit of this over the spray bottle Iron OUT? Although the spray bottle is easier to apply to tricky areas, it does have a very strong smell. Magica Rust Remover doesn’t, and it doesn’t contain corrosive acids, so it is less likely to damage the surrounding metal.

So, if you don’t have any difficult to reach areas that are rusting and you want to protect your furniture, this is a good option.

7. Scrub Away Using Aluminum Foil 

Scrub Away Using Aluminum Foil 

This is another great trick for dealing with rust spots. Oxygen molecules are more attracted to aluminum, so they are taken away from the rust and it starts to dissolve. If you gently rub the foil over the rust, it will come away easily, without the need for scrubbing with sandpaper or wire brushes. You can improve the effect by adding a small amount of vinegar because it also dissolves iron oxides. 

To remove rust with aluminum foil, mix a bit of vinegar and water together and then dip a strip of foil in. Gently rub it over the surface (remember, you’re not scrubbing, you are just attracting the oxygen molecules), until the rust starts to dissolve. Wipe it down from time to time with a microfiber cloth to remove dissolved rust. Repeat this process a few times until the furniture is rust-free.

8. Use Baking Soda

It's Just - Baking Soda, Sodium Bicarbonate, Food Grade, Made in USA (1.25 Pound)

Baking soda is another common home cleaning remedy that can be used on rust. It won’t work on patches of thick rust but it’s great for spots and light stains. All you need to do is mix some baking soda with a little water until you have a thick paste. Spread a decent layer of the paste all over the rust and leave it for an hour to dissolve. Then, take some wire wool and give it a scrub.

You don’t need to be too rough with it because it should be ready to come off quite easily. Once you have scrubbed it, rinse it off with some water and dry the surface properly.

9. Rub with a Potato

Rub with a Potato

Believe it or not, the humble potato can actually help you clean rust off your furniture. It works because potatoes contain oxalic acid, which is a common ingredient found in most household cleaning products. Rubbing a potato directly onto the rust can clean off surface rust quite easily.

Simply cut a potato in half and then sprinkle some salt over the flesh. The salt draws out liquid from the potato, giving you more oxalic acid on the surface. It also acts as an abrasive to gently scrub the rust away. Take your potato and rub it over the rusted areas and they should come off right away. Once you’re done, wipe it down and your furniture should be sparkling.

Check out this video for more detailed instructions on using potatoes to clean rust, as well as some tips on how to protect your furniture afterward.

Should You Wipe the Outdoor Furniture After Cleaning Away the Rust?

Yes, if you have dissolved or scrubbed away rust, the particles will still be all over the surface. Take a damp microfiber rag to clean all of the small particles of rust, as well as any leftover cleaning products and grime on the furniture. If you don’t clean it properly, the residue could damage the finish on the furniture, and it will have a dull appearance.

Should You Refinish the Outdoor Furniture After Cleaning Rust?

Although it isn’t essential, it’s a good idea to refinish your outdoor furniture after cleaning rust. This will refresh it and make it look new, and also protect it against rust in the future so you don’t have to keep cleaning rust over and over.

For metal furniture, you can car wax to create a protective barrier that blocks out water and oxygen. Alternatively, you could use some spray paint or a waterproof sealant. Anything that stops oxygen and water from coming into contact with the metal will stop rust.

If you have wooden furniture with rusting screws, consider painting over them or applying a protective coating. A zinc-based lacquer is the best thing for protecting screws against rust. 

Can You Paint Over Rusty Patio Furniture?

People often try to cut corners by simply painting over rusty patio furniture. There are some great metal paints that will go straight on top of rust and the finish looks good. They’re nice and thick, so you get a smooth surface and the rust is nowhere to be seen. However, that doesn’t mean it’s gone.

Painting over rust is a short-term fix because the rust will still continue to degrade and weaken the furniture, even after you paint over it. It’s a much better option to use the methods described above to remove the rust first. At the very least, scrape or sand away the bulk of the rust before painting.

You can then paint the furniture to seal it and protect it against rust in the future. This is the best way to make sure that your outdoor furniture lasts as long as possible.

Can You Repair Rotting Rusted Patio Furniture?

Yes… sometimes. This is a tricky question to answer because it really depends on the state of the furniture. If you have patio furniture that is rusted right through all over, it might be worth replacing it. However, if only certain areas, like the legs, are rusted through, you may be able to replace certain parts.

By cutting off the rusted parts and replacing them with new metal, or even plastic, you can bring patio furniture back to life.

This video is a great example of this. He takes the legs off some rusted old patio furniture and replaces them with PVC pipe, but to length. Then, he uses Rust-Oleum Forged Hammered Spray Paint, which is a multipurpose paint that makes things look like forged metal.

He simply cuts the rusted ends off the legs and slides the PVC pipe over the top, so it still has enough strength to support the chair, but the rust is gone and it looks brand new. This is a simple method using fairly cheap materials, and it can bring your furniture back to life. But bear in mind that you won’t always be able to do this if the patio furniture is too far gone.

You can also use metal patch and fill compound to fix rusted holes in patio furniture. This is similar to wood filler, but for metal. After sanding and cleaning the area, you can then patch up the hole, let it dry, and sand it smooth. You will then need to paint it to cover the patched area. Check out this guide to patching rust holes for more information.

Fixing rotting patio furniture is a good way to save a lot of money, so it’s always worth a try before you replace it.

Can Your Pressure Wash Rusted Patio Furniture? 

Yes, pressure washing is a good way to clean furniture and bring it back to life. Just be careful if the furniture is very rusty because it won’t be particularly strong. If you blast it with a powerful jet of water, big chunks will start coming off and you’ll ruin the furniture completely.

If you are going to pressure wash rusted patio furniture, use a low pressure setting and stop if you notice large pieces of the furniture coming away.

Will Vinegar Remove Rust from Outdoor Furniture?

Yes, most acidic substances will remove rust from outdoor furniture. That’s why lemon juice works and vinegar will have the same effect. It works best when used with aluminum foil or you can soak smaller items in vinegar. This isn’t always ideal for furniture but if you can take it apart and soak it, you can strip the rust off quite effectively.

Will Coca Cola Remove Rust from Patio Furniture? Coca-Cola Coke Soda, 20 Ounce (24 Bottles)

Yes, Coca Cola is actually a very effective rust remover. It contains phosphoric acid and citric acid, which are both good for dissolving rust. The carbonation also helps to break up the iron oxides once they start dissolving.

However, for best results, you need to soak the rusty item in Coca Cola for 24 hours, which isn’t very practical for a piece of furniture. Even if you did have a container large enough, you’d have to spend a lot of money on Coca Cola and it would make a lot of mess, so it may be best to look into other options.

Rusting Outdoor Furniture FAQs

What is Oxidation on Patio Furniture?

People often get confused about oxidation and rust, and whether they are the same thing. Oxidation refers to a chemical reaction where one or more electrons are lost from an atom or molecule. Rust is a specific type of oxidation reaction that happens when iron comes into contact with water and oxygen. So, all rust is oxidation, but not all oxidation is rust.

In some cases, other oxidation reactions can take place, especially on rust-resistant metals like stainless steel. A coating is still formed, but it does not appear the same as red rust. Often, it will discolor or dull the surface of the metal.

The Rejuvenate Wipes listed above are excellent for removing the oxidized layer on the surface of metals and restoring their shine. Some of the home remedies like lemon juice will work well too.

What types of Nails Won’t Rust in Wooden Patio Furniture?

Stainless steel is the best choice for nails in wooden furniture. The addition of elements like chromium and nickel create an oxidation process that forms a protective barrier over the steel, so the iron cannot oxidize and cause rust. There are different grades of stainless steel nails, and some are better than others.

304 stainless steel is rust-resistant, but it will still rust eventually. The only fully rust-proof nails are made from 316 stainless steel. This has added chromium and nickel but also contains a polymer called molybdenum, which prevents rust entirely.

You can also use galvanized nails. These have a protective coating of zinc, which does not oxidize very quickly. However, this protective coating will eventually wear down and the nails will start to rust.

Aluminum is more rust-resistant than other metals too. It isn’t as good as stainless steel, but it’s a cheaper option.

How to Prevent Outdoor Furniture from Rusting?

The most obvious way to stop rust is to keep your furniture dry. If you can store it inside over the winter, or at least keep it covered, it will last a lot longer without rusting. However, humidity will still lead to rust eventually.

Creating a protective barrier on the metal also helps. Paste wax (usually used for cars) is an excellent option here and it will make your furniture look nice as well as protecting it. Applying a coat of wax every few months or so will help to keep rust at bay. You can get the same effect by applying oil or metal grease to the chairs too. Linseed oil is particularly good for blocking oxygen and preventing rust.

WD-40 is good for repelling moisture too. Simply spray it all over the metal and then let it dry off and it will be protected for a short while. You do have to reapply fairly often though, so paste wax is probably the best choice.

How to Clean Rust from Patio Furniture Cushions?

If rust has seeped onto your furniture cushions and stained them, you can use lemon juice to dissolve it and clean it off. All you need to do is pour lemon juice on the area and let it sit in the sun for a while. You can then take the covers off and wash them once the rust has been dissolved.

Read our related patio furniture cushion articles: 

Can You Buy Protective Coatings for Outdoor Metal Furniture?

Yes, there are lots of different protective coatings you can use on outdoor metal furniture. Paste wax is a good one, but you can also try oils, grease, or paint to give a protective coating. You can also use dry coatings for metal. 

These coatings usually come in a simple spray bottle that is easy to apply to your furniture. They are water-based products that dry in around half an hour and leave a protective film behind, without any sticky residue. 

KBS Coatings 8504 DiamondFinish Clear Coat - 1 Gallon

Finally, you can put a clear coat over the top of the metal. KBS Coatings Diamond Finish is a great urethane clear coat that gives you a robust layer of protection over the top of bare or painted metals. This is one of the best options because it will last a long time and completely block out all moisture and oxygen. 

How Can You Remove Rust from Painted Patio Furniture?

When removing rust from painted patio furniture, you need to be careful not to damage the surrounding paint. So, scrubbing it with sandpaper might not be the best option. Ideally, you need methods that carefully dissolve the rust without damaging anything else. Home remedies like lemon juice or potatoes are best here. Alternatively, use a rust cleaner, but be careful and only apply directly to rusted areas. 

You can also use masking tape to cover non-rusted areas, so it doesn’t come into contact with whatever cleaner you are using.

Final Thoughts

Rust is a common problem with outdoor furniture and there are a lot of ways to tackle it. Early intervention is key, so as soon as you notice small rust spots, you should clean them right away.

Using simple home remedies is best because you’ll save money and don’t risk damaging the furniture as much. However, if the rust is thicker, you will have to rely on proper rust cleaners. 

Once you have removed rust, always take steps to protect furniture and prevent it. If you can stop it from happening in the first place, it’s a lot easier to tackle rust.

Read our rust related articles: